OBJECTIVE To analyse the anatomo-clinical characteristics of the coarctation of the aorta at different ages of presentation as well as the findings and results of its surgical correction at different periods. PATIENTS AND METHODS We retrospectively studied the clinical and angiographic data, as well as the intraoperative findings and surgical outcomes of 82 consecutive patients (54 M and 28 F) with coarctation of the aorta. Mean age was 16.2 +/- 13.7 years (1 month to 63 years). The patients were divided into three groups according to age: Group A (n = 10) under 1 year; Group B (n = 30) from 1 to 12 years and Group C (n = 42) over 12 years. RESULTS A preductal form was found in 20.7% cases (50.0%, 30.0% and 7.1% of groups A, B, and C respectively; p = 0.003). An associated left-to-right shunt was present in 19.5% (40.0%, 16.7% and 16.7% of groups A, B and C respectively; p = NS). The first manifestation of the disease was different in groups A, B and C. Among group A patients, congestive heart failure was the most frequent presentation (70.0%). In group B, the most frequent presentation (30%) was as an incidental finding in an asymptomatic patient. Finally, systemic hypertension or its complications predominated among group C patients (38.0%). Left ventricular hypertrophy on ECG was present in 0.0%, 30.0% and 54.7% of patients in groups A, B and C (p = 0.003) respectively. Postoperative complications including death, hypertensive crisis and re-coarctation were observed in 90.0%, 33.3% and 21.4% in groups A, B and C (p = 0.01) respectively. CONCLUSIONS Among patients with coarctation of the aorta, the age of clinical presentation allows us to define groups of patients with different anatomical characteristics, clinical course and postoperative outcome.